Recommend a Soldering Station

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Get a 40W magnastat Weller. The base is a WTCPT and you can get a million different tips for them.

You really need temperature CONTOL not adjustable power.

they are the industry standard in Australia. Parts are cheap and they are fairly reliable.
They are tough apart from where the iron stand clips onto the transformer. I just glue the iron stand on top to make it easier to carry around in one piece. the switches in the handle clag up after a while but they are easily disassembled for a clean up.

with three 700 degree tips you can do most things.
get a super fine conical point for surface mount, bend the last 5mm of the top 30 degrees to help you get into tight spots.
get a small chisel for most work.
and for the big stuff get the big fat screwdriver that has no taper on it. you can do some pretty heavy stuff with that. If you need more heat for really huge items like automotive battery cables buy an el-cheapo 100W iron.

You;ll be amazed what the weller can do when you use the right tip, it's all about heat transfer, not more heat.
Hi OzMikeH,

Any time someone asks the board for a good soldering iron someone starts arguing Weller is the best and only choice. The question here was “a good bang-for-the-buck”. Weller is a good choice but for a BIG buck (of dollars).

The Aoyue ones are a good alternative for a tenth of the price of a Weller. They are regulated, well made and have a wide choice of replaceable tips. Have several around in the workplace besides several Wellers.

Cheers ;)
That Aoyue looks like a Hakko 936 knockoff, down to the model number.

I have a Hakko 936, and I've used some Wellers and Metcals. The 936 and the WTCPT both come in around $100, and they both have a wide selection of tips. $100 is a lot of money, but if you solder a lot, having a good iron makes a world of difference.

I'm a bit suspicious of the quality of the Aoyue-types, but < $40 is pretty tempting.
solder station

I have owned one of the circuitspecialist CSI-STATION2A for a couple years (digital readout is GREAT), and love it. Heat very quickly, comes with a tip fine enough for about anything (except some surface mount). My only complaint - and this applies to ANY solder station, is the default tip is a bit small for tinning large areas. Plan to get a "plug in" 60 watt iron to make my dedicated tinning iron and save my adjustable for actually soldering in components. Whatever you get, get a few extra tips and heating elements and you should be set.
I use the circuit specialists CSI-2900. I have tried numerous models from them as they are only about 5 miles from me & also have had numerous stations in the $250 range and this is the bad boy you want PERIOD. Performs 10x better than many others costing 5x more. Notice in the pic how close the handle is to the tip, it is PERFECT for detailed soldering work. It has quick change tips that pull out and slide in place. You can change tips hot as well with the pad they give you. The tip selection and quality is fantastic / the tips seem to last forever!!

I use this little model in my automotive led swapping business and generally make about 150-200 solderjoints a day / 3-4 days a week for almost 2 years now and never have had an issue.

Another bonus is from the second you power it on, she is ready to use in about 8-10 seconds.

Here are the tip selections, I use the LF-12D & LF16D the most.

It makes the more expensive weller WLC200 seem like a bad joke, and my old weller wesd51 sits in a box now in the garage, HATED that iron.

I do not think you can get a better iron setup for the money period.
Call me old fashioned, but the Hakko 936 is a great soldering station, and I can't see buying a cheap knock-off of a good design. What kind of reward is that for a job well done? I've seen many problems with the older Weller stations, and for the money they should have done better. Maybe the newer ones are more reliable, but again, it's that reward thing. Pretty much sums up how I'll vote in the next election too.
I had the old rounded shape Hakko 936 for a while, loved it. Awesome iron with some VERY fine tips available and great heat flow. Nice grip and feel, the handle got a bit warm but the silicone cover helps a lot.
I had to get rid of it after a couple of years, the ceramic heaters are too fragile for out and about use. a 1m drop onto a hard floor and it usually breaks.
For bench use they are fine, as long as the cord is too short for the tip to reach the floor.
The best iron I know of is the Metcal, the Wellers aren't even close. Extremely fast heating and temperature control in its own league, they use RF heating of the tip (patented, alas). But Metcals cost hundreds of dollars and tips are expensive, too, unfortunately.

For the next step down I'd vote for Hakko 936, a tolerable compromise.
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